Tuesday, March 27, 2012
Someone asked me this very question the other day, and after a lot of thought and research I’ve finally got my answer – “No. I don’t.”
Perhaps it would help if I were to clarify what I mean? First of all, in case you don’t know what I’m talking about, the Five Fold Ministry is a concept taken from one single passage in the New Testament (Ephesians 4:11-13) which says:
“So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”
Notice that there are five gifts mentioned here. They are Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors, and Teachers, and for those who swear by the Five Fold Ministry model, this list represents both a hierarchy of giftings, and an essential list of gifts that must be present in every church for health and growth.
First, let me explain why I reject the Five Fold concept. It’s because Paul himself gives us other lists of giftings elsewhere in his epistles and those other lists are slightly longer, and in a different order, than the one he gives here in Ephesians.
Before we look at those other two, let’s go ahead and say that this fact alone should tell us that Paul didn’t intend for his list in Ephesians to be taken as the only model for church dynamics. If he gave other church members in other cities a different list, then that means he wasn’t trying to be dogmatic about this, and that he was speaking loosely about the various gifts that God releases into the Body of Christ for growth, strength, and life.
Got it? Ok, now let’s look at those other two lists, starting with the one in 1 Corinthians 12, verse 28 where Paul says:
“And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues.”
So, even though Paul starts out the same in Corinthians as he does in Ephesians – with Apostles and Prophets – he strangely promotes Teachers to third place (up from last place in our Ephesian list. Way to go Teachers!), and then introduces Miracle Workers, Healers, Helpers, Guidance (or Wisdom) and Tongues. This might be called the Eight Fold Ministry since here Paul expands the length of his list by three.
Notice that, if we were ignorant of the other lists, the one in Ephesians and the one in Romans (which we’ll look at in a second), we could easily conclude that God’s plan is all about this (and only this) order of gifts to lead the church. We might conclude from this list that Pastors and Evangelists are lower class citizens in the church since they’re not mentioned at all. We could also easily make a case that Paul’s list is hierarchical since he enumerates these by saying, “First of all…second….third…” and so on. This clearly indicates that the first ones are more important and the last ones are less important.
Wrong. Why? Because Paul said something different to the church in Ephesus and in Rome. And, since his order in those other cases was different, we can safely assume that when Paul says “First of all apostles…” he’s talking chronologically and not hierarchically. The Apostles were the first ones to be “sent out” by Jesus and once the Gospel was preached and people responded, they needed to have others who could prophesy and teach, and serve, etc.
But wait, we’re not done. Let’s look now at Paul’s essential list of gifts in Romans 12. It goes like this:
“For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully."
Personally, I like this list a lot more than the other two. This Seven Fold Ministry of God drops leadership to the very bottom, just ahead of showing mercy, and it moves service, teaching and encouragement to the top. That’s my kind of list.
But, again, the Christians in Rome could easily have taken this list and deduced from it that Apostles, Evangelists and Pastors are unnecessary in the Church, and that what really counts is Prophecy, Service, Teaching, Encouragement, Giving, Leadership and Mercy. But, again, they would be wrong about that.
What’s fascinating to me is that, while we have all three of these epistles in front of us and they didn’t, our tendency is to take one of those lists as authoritative while ignoring the other two. There is no evidence that the churches in Ephesus, Rome or Corinth took Paul’s instructions in this manner to be exhaustive and exclusive of the others.
The main thing I believe we can learn from all of this is that Jesus was serious when he said that we are all brothers and sisters and that none of us was meant to play the Father, or the Ruler over anyone else. (See Matthew 23:9) The goal in the Body of Christ is that we are all members of one another, and that no one person is given the preeminence over the rest of us.
Having said all of this, let me clarify that yes, I do believe that there are those today who are “sent ones” (or “Apostles”) in the church today. Their function is to go out and preach the Gospel, plant churches, recognize gifts in the Body, and move on when needed to plant more churches. I also believe that there are those in the church today with the gifts of prophecy, and tongues, and teaching, and mercy, and giving, and all those many, many other gifts.
What I reject is the idea that there are only five main gifts in the church today, or that these five should be exalted above all the other gifts mentioned in the New Testament as if they are more special or more necessary or more crucial than any of the others.
At face value, the message of the New Testament is that you matter. Your gift – whatever it is – is necessary. You are important. You have something the rest of us need. We have something that you need. We need one another to grow and to thrive.
As Paul says in each of these passages, there are many gifts, and they are all given by the One Spirit, and we are all members of each other. Our gifts are not for us, they are not about us, they are about one another and the purpose of these gifts is to be a blessing to everyone else and to exalt them, not ourselves.
So, I’m not sure about you, but since there are something like 28 different spiritual gifts mentioned in the Bible, and 58 "one anothers", I’m a big fan of the 28 or the 58 Fold Ministry of God.
How about you?
Thursday, March 22, 2012
Lessons Learned from Tiger
- Feeling trapped can make you destructive.
- Sometimes help can look a lot like punishment.
- We can mistake family for strangers because of smell/appearance.
- It's hard to eat and drink on your own when you're wearing the "cone of shame".
- That's when you step in and feed them by hand.
- Medicine that's hidden in food goes down more easily.
- The treatment against infection is sometimes painful.
- The one stuck outside wants desperately to be inside. The one inside desperately wants to be outside.
- We can't always see the big picture.
- Two weeks seems like an eternity.
- It's awful to not be able to scratch your own itch, and such a relief when someone comes to help.
- It's easier when you don't fight it.
- Wounds require a great deal of care to heal properly.
- Fighting can be quite costly and painful.
- God didn't set a limit on how much He was willing to pay for my sake.
- He understands the groaning of my heart which are much too deep for words.
- He is patient and attentive to detail in caring for my needs which continue throughout my entire life, and not just two weeks.
- He is compassionate even when I am frustrating.
Monday, March 19, 2012
Now that the smoke has largely cleared on Rob Bell's "Love Wins" book and most of the credible rebuttals and responses have long since fell off the Top 10 List of Christian bestsellers, I wanted to share my thoughts on this controversial topic.
Before I get into this one please let me say that this is still an in-progress study for me. My views are not set in stone, but this is where I've landed as of now, based on my studies. These studies have included reading the words of Jesus on the topic of hell, or gehenna, listening to various Bible teachers on the subject, and reading both Bell's "Love Wins" and Francis Chan's response, "Erasing Hell".
For me, Bell's book was anything but persuasive, and Chan's book was only a re-statement of the traditional view of eternal suffering without any real, hard look at the other two competing views of hell, namely Annihilationism and Universalism.
Honestly, I much prefer the ministry and teaching of Chan to that of Bell, so my opinion of their books isn't reflective of my like or dislike of their individual ministries. I'm simply commenting on my assessment of their books on this subject.
Before I get into this I should probably define what the three main views of Hell are for those who aren't familiar:
Eternal Suffering is the most popular view in the Christian church today, although as we shall see this is a fairly recent development. It was once the minority view in the early church but has risen to prominence in the last few hundred years or so. This view is that those who reject Christ will suffer an eternal punishment of extreme anguish and torture forever and ever without end.
Annihiliationism is the view that unrepentant souls are destroyed forever after a period of suffering.
Universalism is the view that those who reject Christ as Lord will suffer for a period of time and then be offered an opportunity to repent and turn to Christ, thus being redeemed and brought into the Kingdom of God.
I must point out that, although it may seem so, this theory of Universalism is not the same as the Catholic doctrine of Purgatory. As I understand it, Purgatory is where only certain people go who are not good enough to be saved, but not evil enough to suffer forever. Catholics do also believe that some go to an eternal place of torment. Those who do not either go to Hell, or Heaven, must suffer a time in Purgatory and are then allowed to enter Heaven.
To study this topic you must only look at the New Testament writings. Why? Because the Old Testament scriptures are strangely silent on the topic of where we go after we die. David and the other Hebrew writers refer to "going down to the pit" or "the grave" but nothing is said about fire, or torment, or suffering forever and ever...or at all, really.
While we can probably wonder about why this is, the fact remains that Jesus and the Apostles give us our only clues about what happens to those who reject Christ after they die. So, let's look at what the New Testament tells us.
If we look at what Jesus taught about Hell, or Gehenna, (the term Jesus actually uses when He speaks of the place that people go if they do not accept Him as Messiah), we see that in every case the language that Jesus uses has to do with destruction of the soul, not eternal suffering without end.
Yes, there are a handful of verses that speak of "everlasting fire" or "everlasting torment" and Jesus talks about "fire that is not quenched" and "the worm that does not die", but these are only a handful (and we will address these in a moment). The majority of verses do not speak of an eternal suffering but instead about destruction, perishing, and death.
In the places where Jesus does speak of an eternal duration of hell, the eternal quality is placed on the fire, or the smoke, or the worms, not on the torment, and not on the souls of the people who are suffering.
The view of eternal suffering is predicated on an assumption which I believe is scripturally unsound; the idea that the human soul is eternal.
You and I have always heard it said that "every soul is immortal, the only question is where you spend eternity." But, does the Scripture teach us that those outside of Christ will live forever? No. I can find no scriptures anywhere that affirm the eternal quality of the human soul per se, without Christ.
Starting in Genesis, the reason that God banishes Adam and Eve from the Garden is why? "Lest they eat of the Tree of Life and live forever." (Genesis 3:22)
And what was their punishment for eating of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil? "You shall surely die" (Genesis 3:2)
So, if death was the punishment for their sin, and if they were prevented from eating from the Tree of Life because to do so would be to "live forever", then are human souls inherently eternal?
This is also why Paul and the other Apostles go on and on about how "our life is hidden in Christ" and "when Christ, who is your life, appears, you will appear with him also." (Colossians 3: 3-4)
Jesus even tells us that if we come to Him we will have life, but if we do not come to Him we do not have life. (John 5:40; 10:10; etc.)
So, only those of us who are in Christ have life, and without Christ we have no life beyond this one.
However, Jesus does teach that those who reject Him as Lord will suffer in Gehenna, which we translate as "Hell" but that His contemporary hearers would have understood as the garbage dump outside the city gates. At best, Jesus is using this constantly burning trash heap as a metaphor for what will happen to those who die without His life in them.
At the resurrection, when Christ returns, both the righteous and the unrighteous will be raised from the dead to face the Judgment seat of Christ. Those who love Christ and who have followed Him will be raised to live forever with Him in the New Heaven and the New Earth. But those who do not belong to Christ will be raised for...what?
This is where it gets tricky.
Jesus warns that it will be a place of torment, but we do not know for how long. While Jesus says that the fire will be eternal, we are not told that the people, or the suffering will be eternal.
As scary as this may be, and Jesus did emphasize that this was a fate to avoid at all costs, it does not specifically teach us that Hell is about suffering eternally without end.
We have to balance these statements with verses where Jesus warns us to fear God who:
"The earliest system of Universalistic theology was by Clement of Alexandria who was the head of the theological school in that city until 202 A.D. His successor in the school was the great Origen, the most distinguished advocate of this doctrine in all time." (From the New Schaff-Herzog, page 96, paragraph 2)
"In the first five or six centuries of Christianity there were six known theological schools, of which four (Alexandria, Antioch, Caesarea, and Edessa, or Nisibis) were Universalist; one (Ephesus) accepted conditional immortality; one (Carthage or Rome) taught endless punishment of the wicked." (From the New Schaff-Herzog, page 96, paragraph 3)
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Friday, March 16, 2012
The simplicity of that statement stunned me a bit. Of course, I thought, if you’re in a room full of people who are committed to loving everyone else, you’ll have to accommodate them by allowing them to actually love you. And if you’re honestly trying to learn how to love God, you’ll have to actually begin by learning how to let God love you.
The questions that began to whisper through my heart as I pondered my friend’s words were relentless. “How can I receive love from others like this?”, “What’s holding me back from receiving God’s love in my own heart?”, and most profoundly, “How could I possibly have missed such a simple truth?”
That conversation was years ago now. I’m still trying to answer those questions in my heart. If anything, those whispers have crescendoed into roars like a waterfall in my ears. “How do I learn to be loved?”
I have to admit, this is something I struggle with. Yes, I know in my mind that Jesus loves me, and I have experienced the love of God in my life many times before, but I’m learning lately that I have yet to really learn how to fully receive God’s love the way He intends for me to.
Why is it hard for me to accept God’s amazing love? I think it's partly because I struggle with pride. One of the ways I try to manage my pride is to avoid anything that is about "me" or tends to exalt my ego in any way. Somehow the idea of embracing the notion that Jesus is totally in love with me feels like a threat to my meager humility. It’s almost as if receiving His love would fill me with pride somehow. I don't know how to fully explain it, but it’s there.
At the same time, I am also constantly aware that I do not deserve His love, so to fully embrace His outrageous love for me is like denying that I am wretched, sinful, and unlovable.
So, because of my love for myself, and my hatred of myself, I am kept from fully receiving the exquisite love of God. I am boxed in on both sides by selfish pride and by awareness of my own sin. How can I receive the awesome love of a Holy God when I am too in love with myself, or too ashamed of my own unworthiness to let Him love me?
Intellectually, of course, I know all the answers for this. If I were counseling someone else I would know exactly which verses to quote, what illustrations to use to counter these ideas, but in practice, in my own heart, these do not erase the reality of my struggle.
I’ve preached sermons on this topic, I’ve memorized verses on the love of God, I know in my mind that all of these thoughts and attitudes are foolish and unnecessary, but none of that changes the fact: A large portion of my heart is still untouched by the love of God.
If you’re in the same boat with me then we are the people that Paul the Apostle is praying for in Ephesians chapter 3 when he says:
“And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (v. 17-19)
What Paul says is that our ability to be “rooted and established in love” can only be accomplished if we receive “power” from God to do so. God’s power must be unleashed upon us to enable us to “know this love that surpasses knowledge”.
I love that Paul uses that phrase to describe the love of God - “love that surpasses knowledge” because what he’s emphasizing to us is that the love of God isn’t accessible via language, or teaching, or intelligence, or any other form of human knowledge. How could you possibly know something that surpasses knowledge? Even if you had all the knowledge in the Universe you would still not be capable of knowing this astounding love of God. Why? Because the love of God surpasses knowledge. It cannot be found in this way. It is too large for any human brain to grasp. Only the human heart can ever hope to receive it, and only then if it is apprehended by the impulse of God’s might power working in us.
My prayer for myself, and for you as well if you find yourself in this same place, is exactly what Paul says here. I pray that we might all have power to grasp how infinitely wide and eternally high and endlessly deep is the transformational love of Christ Jesus, our Lord.
True, there may be barriers in my own heart that I know must be broken down before I can finally receive His amazing love. But, it's good to know that Jesus has His sights set on destroying these barriers. Only He can do this work in my heart. I long for Him to crash through those two strongholds of mind and heart. I can't wait for that day to come.
Shane Crash: I'm Shane Crash. I write zines and short stories.
KG: Is there a website where people can read your zines or short stories?
SC: You can read short writings and purchase zines at http://www.shanecrash.com/. I'm putting out my first novel on June 1st, through Civitas Press.
KG: What's it called? What is it about?
SC: It's called "Forest Life". It follows a character who retreats from society and his struggle to sustain the will to live.
KG: Sounds interesting. What else do you do with your time?
SC: I work with the homeless and teach on nonviolence.
KG: What kind of work do you do with the homeless?
SC: I'm volunteering at the Portland Rescue Mission and I walk the streets of Portland at night providing clothing, toiletries and food to the homeless people I meet.
KG: So, explain where and how do you teach nonviolence?
SC: I normally submit essays on my website at shanecrash.com, and I also teach on it in my zine "Lost Thoughts" which is available in my web store.
KG: What are your views on nonviolence?
SC: The New Testament commands us never to “repay evil with evil” but instead to “overcome evil with good” (Rom.12:17; cf. I Thess 5:15; I Pet 3:9).
Jesus said, “Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also”(Mt 5:39). He also said, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you” (Lk 6:27-28).
I believe that only good can overcome evil and that to combat evil we must love and serve our enemies in the same manner that Christ died for those who persecuted him.
Violence is an unending cycle and is continually perpetuated by nationalistic conditioning in the form of redemptive violence and fear mongering. The whole point of Jesus’ teaching is to tell disciples that their attitude toward “enemies” should be radically different from others. “If you do good to those who do good to you,” Jesus added, “what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same” (Lk 6:32).
Everybody instinctively hates those who hate them and believes they are justified killing people who might kill them or their loved ones. In contrast to this, Jesus is saying: “Be radically different.” Like MLK, I maintain that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolence.
KG: What else do you write about?
SC: I generally write on social issues using satire. I prefer the short story format. Right now I'm focusing on storytelling and my own experience as a backpacker.
KG: Let's talk about that. What sort of experience have you had as a backpacker? Did you travel the US or Europe as a hitchhiker? Why did you do that? What did you learn?
SC: When I was twenty years old I was a wealthy salesman at a growing company. I was the lead salesman in my department making a large amount of money. I suffered through a personal tragedy and could no longer carry on living a meaningless existence so I sold all of my possessions, paid out the lease on my apartment and traveled the United States and the Bahamas as a backpacker.
Over and over I scoured the darkest, most desperate parts of Kansas City, of Brooklyn, Los Angeles and almost every major city in the continental US. I observed random acts of violence. I watched hookers get into cars with strangers and I listened to grown men sob alone in the alleys at night because they had nowhere to go.
I hit the road looking for something that I couldn't quite put my finger on so for a while I lived alone in a cabin on Kentucky Lake. I was determined to try and understand life. When I couldn't reconcile the Christian teachings of my youth with the futility of living I tried to kill myself by smashing my car into a median on a highway in Missouri. That didn't work out so I continued searching and drank heavily for the next two years. I was finally able to reconcile the Jesus who hung out with screwed up sinners while speaking with some homeless friends one night in Houston, Texas. Eventually I became content with living and I curved my frustrations with faith and existence to try and benefit others who are enduring similar trials. Now I work with the homeless as much as I can and I advocate for nonviolence.
KG: You've said before that you felt compelled to write about this subject and to examine the problem of suicide and suffering without religious language or faith in the equation. Why did you feel it was important to examine this problem "without religious language"?
SC:I wanted to write an honest novel and frankly I don't feel comfortable using religious language. I'm a human and my struggles have always been very human struggles. I'd rather write an honest, gritty and human novel than sacrifice my intellectual integrity for Christian Catch Phrases.
KG: How is it different from your other projects?
SC: It's my first concise novel. In the past I've only put out punk zines and short stories.
KG: What are your main passions? What is it you most often find yourself writing about?
SC: I'm very passionate about nonviolence and religion/anthropology and the correlation between the two, especially regarding religious culture and the effect it has on humanity. I like to examine the ambiguity of religion in humanity, the way that it brings security to some minds and suffering to others.
KG: Can you explain how religious culture effects humanity. What do you mean by that exactly?
SC: I've always been frustrated that the Christian elite employ gimmicks and ploys to reel in the thoughtless and naive through politics and televangelism, etc. I am frustrated because Christ is very clear that his followers are to practice power UNDER others rather than power over others, meaning Christians should self-sacrificially serve their neighbors and enemies without condition.
KG: I wonder if you could elaborate a bit on what you mean by the phrase "ambiguity of religion in humanity"? How and why does it bring "suffering" and "security"?
SC: Some people find comfort in the ideas of Heaven and Hell, feeling that their beliefs guarantee them eternal paradise and others eternal damnation. Others like myself are nearly driven to madness and inconsolable grief by the fear that people are punished eternally for getting things wrong in this short life. Given the millions of variables that can determine a person's belief or lack thereof. It's hard to reconcile a loving God with the mainstream narrative within Christianity.
KG: So, what are your views on Hell? Are they driven more by a rejection of God's character as one who punishes evil in this way? Or do you base your view of the afterlife on scriptural insight? Or a little of both?
SC: My study of theology has led me to lean toward the annihilationist view. Annihilationism is the view that whoever and whatever cannot be redeemed by God is ultimately put out of existence. That view seems to be the most consistent with scripture and with the character of God revealed in Christ. Of course, I'm still working my ideas on this subject out but I completely reject the traditional view of Hell.
KG: I’m leaning towards either annihilationism or redemptive punishment (where unrepentant sinners are punished up to a point and then given an opportunity to repent and turn to Christ after a set time).
I’m still researching the topic at the moment, but after reading Rob Bell’s book (Love Wins) and then reading Francis Chan’s rebuttal (Erasing Hell), and re-reading the words of Jesus on the subject a bit more closely I began to doubt the view of eternal suffering. Then, I discovered that the majority of New Testament Christians never believed in eternal suffering either. The two dominant views, for several hundred years, were annihilationism and limited suffering, or redemptive suffering. The view we all hold today as being “orthodox” (eternal hell) was the minority, or “unorthodox” view for a very long time. I’ll probably have to write a blog series on the topic soon, but that’s another issue.
Why don’t you explain the concept and inspiration behind your Pacifist Army idea?
SC: I'm part of a small group called Pacifist Fight Club. I had the idea to foster a community devoted to nonviolence and enemy-love similar to Pacifist Fight Club. The idea is to periodically raise funds for Christian Peacemaker Teams.
KG: Yes, I started Pacifist Fight Club earlier this year and it was great to have your support as we blogged and Tweeted leading up to that first event.
So, is Pacifist Army an online community, or is it a local gathering of people in your geographic area? What sorts of things to do you do? What Christian Peacemaker Teams are you raising funds for? Why do they need money? What do they do with it?
SC: Pacifist Army is a community of people who discuss and promote nonviolence. I'll be giving small talks regarding nonviolence on my upcoming book tours. I'll also have guest speakers at certain dates. We sell Pacifist Army merch, much the same way that a band would, but the funds all go to Christian Peacemaker Teams. CPT places teams at the invitation of local peacemaking communities that are confronting situations of lethal conflict. These teams seek to follow God's Spirit as it works through local peacemakers who risk injury and death by waging nonviolent direct action to confront systems of violence and oppression. The money is used for travel, subsistence stipends, and communications equipment.
KG: So, what are you currently working on or writing about?
SC: I'm currently documenting my experiences wandering through the streets of Portland at night and my encounters with the homeless. I feel most comfortable outdoors with rubbertramps and homeless folks.
KG: Will this be your next book? Or are you sharing these writings on your blog?
SC: I'm sharing these writings on my blog periodically. It's sort of an exercise to pan out my next project, whatever that may be.
KG: One last question, Will we see you at the next Pacifist Fight Club on May 5th in Irvine, California? It would be great to have you join us since our topic is War.
SC: I will be there. I've marked it on my calendar.
KG: Thanks for taking the time to talk with me, Shane. I'm looking forward to your book and I wish you all the best with the Pacifist Army.
SC: Thank you sir.
Tuesday, March 13, 2012
Alan Hirsch, in his book (The Forgotten Ways), points out that Al-Qaeda is almost impossible to stop. This is, in large part, due to the way its message works, and the way the work gets carried out. And he's absolutely right.
So, in the service of national defense, I propose the following, in order to effectively neutralize the movement. Let's get Al-Qaeda to...
1) Complexify the message
Right now, it's so simple, it can pass from one to the next, and be easily grasped by the uneducated, the young -- everyone. This is dangerous, because it's highly contagious, and people on the street feel capable of enlisting others in the cause.
2) Construct a less "flat", more hierarchical structure
Currently, small, underground groups can move nimbly and autonomously, complicating efforts to thwart them. A more regimented, stratified approach, where some members are left thinking, "I can't know enough to do anything" would bring the movement to a halt.
3) Foster "expert" culture, and barriers to entry to the expert class
Promote the idea that the message is not only highly complex, but only some can truly understand it. Construct extensive barriers to entry to the presumed expert class. Promote idea that cells lacking a certified member of expert class, it is not equipped to be activated.
4) Focus on knowledge, rather than doing
Complexification and expert-class development will make cells spend immense amounts of time studying the work, even debating theories of the work, rather than doing it. Better yet...
5) Equate STUDYING the work with the work itself
The cells are called to ACT, of course. But if we can convince operatives that the work, itself, is in trying to understand the complexity of the work? They'll be effectively neutered. We need to get them to spend large amounts of time in study, gathering to study, believing they don't know enough, hiring new experts to teach them again and again, and attending teaching events.
They'll actually believe they're doing their work when they attend events held by experts. This will render the cell, and the whole movement, harmless! Convince them that the most radicalized, militant among them are merely called to bring other non-activated members to the cell events.
6) Sabotage cell multiplication
VERY important! Cells that operate under simple principles, with motivated operatives, devoted to multiplication? Very, very dangerous, fast-growing, and pop-culture endangering. We must stop this in its tracks, and this is done in multiple ways:
A) Foster egos and small-time celebrity. By convincing operatives to set up individual fiefdoms, fewer autonomous cells will be activated. Rather, the emphasis will be on building larger individual cells with numerous unactivated members.
B) Make the basic structure highly difficult to replicate. Al-Qaeda cells currently are, by necessity, simply-structured and easily replicated. Propagate idea that for cells to begin, planning, experts and capital must be simultaneously accumulated. Expert motivational speakers will be necessary, plus paid staff with highly specific training and talents. Operatives will see massively "successful" large cells, and attempt to duplicate them, with very limited success because of the huge inputs required. This will greatly inhibit growth.
C) Convince philosophically-aligned, but non-active, members to choose from among most entertaining, high quality, cells that offer services for them. Not only will this engender a harmless, internal focus, it will require IMMENSE amounts of resources and energy.
7) Make operatives really, really busy.
Replace simple, animating mission with lengthy lists, charts, and programs for cell maintanance. Convince them that this institutional maintenance is, actually, the mission, itself.
This will leave them will no actual time for conducting actual mission.
8) Get Al-Qaeda to seek governmental approval.
Offer tax incentives if necessary. The larger cells, requiring large edifices, will also require tremendous amounts of capital. This will also allow a measure of control, to threaten the cell's tax status, thereby threatening funds for internal programs, when necessary.
Better: They'll consider actual operational cells that exist without this governmental approval to be, themselves, invalid!
9) Co-opt Al-Qaeda with the larger culture.
Once members are convinced that cell maintenance and study are actually their "mission", the rest of their lives can be harmlessly integrated with the culture at large. They'll be indistinguishable from non-members, and, because of their new understanding of "mission", effectively equivalent to non-members.
10) Convince members to wear Al-Qaeda t-shirts with funny sayings and stuff.
It'll work to thwart an evil message. It even works with the good ones.
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If you like this, you'll love being part of the conversation at Momentum 2012 on March 30 and 31.
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Monday, March 12, 2012
Sunday, March 11, 2012
So, let me ask you to elaborate, when you say you studied house church, you mean more than simply people meeting in a home to listen to a sermon or a bible study. Explain what you mean when you say, “house church” because I think it’s about more than where we meet, right?
Wednesday, March 07, 2012
You can learn many more practical things about house church at MOMENTUM 2012 on March 30 and 31. This practical and interactive gathering will feature plenty of dialog, discussion and hands-on experience with organic church dynamics. Our event will include insights from practitioners like Neil Cole, Ross Rohde, Bill Faris, Ken Eastburn, Joe Chebat, Jeanne O'Hair, Bob Sears and myself. Scott Underwood will lead us in worship. Hope you can be there!
MORE INFO AND REGISTRATION >
Tuesday, March 06, 2012
Monday, March 05, 2012
“Do not be overly concerned about your defects. Instead concentrate on having an unceasing love for Jesus, and you shall be much forgiven, because you have loved much. (Luke 7:47). However, we need to be aware of the tendency to seek the good of feelings and selfish thrills of love (which are the by-products of love) instead of love itself. We can so easily deceive ourselves on this matter. We can concentrate so much on love that we miss the point entirely…But when we are concerned with the constant assurance of His love, we are still in a measure busy with self.” – Fenelon, Let Go, Letter 13, pg. 25
Over the last several months I’ve been trying to draw near to God. I’ve awakened early in the morning, spent time alone in the dark on my knees trying to hear His voice, or sitting in silence, or crying out to Him, but none of that seemed to matter. I heard nothing. I felt nothing. God, it seemed, was not interested.
Eventually, I stopped getting up early. I rolled over in my bed and whispered a sentence of prayer softly into my pillow before drifting back into sleep. It seemed to make no difference if I spent 30 minutes on my knees or two minutes curled under the covers.
What I missed was something so obvious, so simple, and yet blindness does that to you, doesn’t it? It prevents you from seeing what’s right in front of you.
I was coming to God for a feeling or a blessing. God wanted me to come to Him because of my love for Him.
There’s a big difference between loving someone for what they can do for you and loving them “just because”. True love is its own reward. True love does not need to be fed with anything more than love itself. True love is satisfied with itself, and nothing more.
I had forgotten my first love.
In Revelations, Jesus speaks to the church in Ephesus and says,
“I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.” (ch 2:2-3)
As wonderful as all of that sounds, what Jesus says next is heart-breaking:
“Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first.” (v.4)
Somehow, as they were working hard and persevering, as they were exercising discernment and rooting out false apostles, as they were enduring hardships for the sake of Christ, they had forgotten to love Jesus with all their heart.
I find myself sitting in the church of Ephesus. Those words of Jesus echo in my ears as well. “You have forsaken your first love, Keith.”
So, now when I draw to my knees it’s not to receive a blessing. It’s not to hear some pearl of wisdom. It’s not to feel the tingle of the Spirit’s presence. It’s simply to sit at the feet of my precious Jesus. To sit in silence if that’s what He wants. To pour out my heart to Him if that’s what He wants. To experience His touch, if that’s what He wants. But above all, to come to Jesus because He is Jesus.
Because that is enough.
He is more than enough.
Sunday, March 04, 2012
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17)